Happy Canada Day, Yoga Tree! Even when it’s not Canada Day, I often think to myself how lucky and proud I feel to be Canadian. We live in this beautiful country, blessedly free from horrors that some people around the world deal with on a daily basis.
This year, working at Yoga Tree and being so connected to the yoga community while celebrating this day of national pride has also made me think about what it means to be a Canadian yogi.
Yoga’s roots are in Hinduism, and was not initially practiced internationally. Now, yoga is practiced worldwide by people of various faiths. This has become possible because yoga itself is not a religion – in fact, I took some world religion classes in university, and one of my textbooks defined yoga as “a practice and discipline that may involve a philosophical system and mental concentration as well as physical postures and exercises.” An article from Yoga International, written by Swami Rama, also upholds that yoga is not a religion, stating:
“Yoga defines itself as a science: that is, as a practical, methodical, and systematic discipline, or set of techniques, which has the lofty goal of helping human beings become aware of their true nature. The goal of seeking to experience this deepest potential is not part of a religious process. It is an experiential science of self-study. Religions seek to define what we should believe, while a practical science such as meditation is based on the concrete experience of teachers and yogis who have used these techniques to experience the deepest Self. Yoga does not contradict or interfere with any religion, and may be practiced by everyone, whether they regard themselves as agnostics or members of a particular faith.“
All over the world, people have taken the “practical science” of yoga and applied it to suit their own lives. It is relevant and useful to so many, regardless of faith or background, because it helps us to achieve the shared goals that unify us within our human experience. As Swami Rama goes on to say in the same article cited above, “Yoga, with its powerful techniques for creating a sense of inner peace, harmony, and clarity of mind, is absolutely relevant to the modern world—both East and West, [because it helps to achieve] that for which all of mankind is searching—inner peace, tranquility, and wisdom.”
Yoga Tree co-founders Jason and Debbie say that their aim is to provide members with the opportunity to experience the physical health benefits that result when you discover the connection between your mind and body through practicing yoga. It is the mirroring of your lifestyle that can be found as you practice the physical postures that they focus on. They also believe that it is always your decision whether to participate in the more spiritual aspects you may come across in Yoga Tree classes, such as the chant of “Om” (a sound with ties to Hindu beliefs) at the beginning or end of a class.
So what does it mean to be a Canadian yogi? What it means to practice yoga seems to be at once intimately personal and widely universal – the practice itself can be applied to suit our varying and unique individual needs, as well to fulfill universal goals such as increasing our health and well-being, becoming more self-aware, and realizing our truest and shared human nature. So, being a Canadian yogi is just like being a yogi anywhere else, and yet is simultaneously different for each individual.
From the divine and Canadian light in me to the divine light in you, whatever your nationality or anything else that sets us apart, remember we are also connected, and namaste!